Colorado Legends: Helen Hunt Jackson

A Fighter for Native American Rights

Mrs. Jackson is renowned as a poet, writer, and Native American activist.  She rallied for improved treatment of the Indians by the federal government.

Helen was born Helen Fiske on October 15, 1830, in Amherst Massachusetts.  She attended Ipswich Female Seminary and the Abbott Institute.

One of her best friends and a classmate was the famous poet Emily Dickinson.

In 1852, she married Captain Edward Bissell Hunt and had two sons.  In 1863, her husband died as a result of an accident.

Winter of 1873-74 found Helen in Colorado Springs looking for a cure for tuberculosis.  Here she met her second husband, William Sharpless Jackson, a banker and railroad exec.  They were married in 1875.

She started her writing career anonymously, by penning three novels about the loss of her husband and son.

The Crusade of Helen Hunt Jackson

Helen traveled extensively and on a trip to Boston, heard a lecture by Chief Standing Bear, describing the forceful removal of his tribe to reservations.

He spoke of the suffering of his people, the disease, starvation, poor medical care, and tainted supplies.

Outraged, Mrs. Hunt became an outspoken activist on the plight of Native Americans.  Her first book, “A Century of Dishonor”, detailed the government’s inhuman dealings with various tribes.

This book was published in 1881, at Helen’s own expense, and she sent it to every member of the U.S. Congress, federal officials and the President.

Failing to make her point known to the government, she decided to author a novel that would help the Native American cause with the public.

The novel was based on Helen’s research on conditions in Southern California among the mission Indians at that time.

“Ramona”, published in 1884, was a masterpiece.  It was the story of an orphan girl and her Native American husband, their struggle to own their land and the prejudices that surround a mixed marriage.

The next year, 1885, Helen died of stomach cancer in San Francisco.  Her husband brought her body back to Colorado where she is buried in the Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs.

If you travel to Seven Falls Park outside of Colorado Springs, you will find one particular waterfall named the Helen Hunt Falls and a memorial plaque in her honor.